Your first car - freedom that comes with a cost

Buying your first car. It’s a big deal!

Maybe you have saved hard for it, maybe you parents have helped, either way, it’s a special day bringing with it freedom and independence.  You have been checking them out on Trade Me, the car auction sites and have trolled around the car fair. You have a reasonable idea what you want and what you can perhaps afford.

Let’s go.

You probably won't be the first owner

Very, very few of us have the ability to go and buy a new car, so automatically we are dealing with something that has already been owned and run in New Zealand or in Japan. Pollution and safety rules in Japan mean they hold cars for not much longer than 6 years and the cars are generally scraped or exported to countries like NZ.  These are generally fine cars, and can represent great value for buyers.

Get it checked out

  • Unless you have a good mechanical knowledge, it is important to get some help when you are deciding to get what for many is the biggest asset they have bought. Vehicle inspections can be carried out by the likes of VTNZ VTNZ and by the AA (who can often inspect the car where it is being sold), or perhaps by a mechanic you or your family might know. Spending maybe $120-$140 for a full inspection might be the best money you spend on your car.
  • Also, check that here is no money still owing on the car by the last owner. If there is, it could be repossessed and leave you with nothing.  A Vehicle Information Report (VIR) from can tell you if the seller is the actual owner, if the car has been stolen, if the speedo has been cheated and wound back to give a lower mileage, or if the car was wrecked or damaged before being imported to NZ. It could be a smart investment.

Buying smart will always save you money

While maybe not the coolest car around, a reliable and sensible car can save you heaps in a number of ways. It could save you a lot of money in repairs and potentially costs less to insure than something that growls and sounds far more exciting. Check out car reviews on websites like,,, or search Google for most reliable cars, safest cars, cheapest cars to run or the like.

Insurance is vital

  • You may not care about your car, but you better care about anything you have the misfortune to have a close encounter with. A minor panel dent in a BMW might cost you thousands if you have caused the accident, so insurance is a must. 
  • There are all sorts of insurances available and the very minimum you should have is what is called “Fire, theft or third party insurance”. This covers you if your car is stolen, catches fire or most importantly, if you have an accident with another car (the third party). It’s cheap so go online and get some.  

The costs of owning a car are real

  • The costs include petrol, oil, tyres and brakes, servicing, parking, licensing, getting Warrants of Fitness (WOFs) and of course your petrol and insurance costs.  
  • Driving a car two or three times a week around town, maybe 5,000km all up over a year, will cost over $1,000 in fuel alone. Add in insurance, registration and running costs and you will at least double that sum. Soon you realise that buying the car was just the start of a reasonably costly process.
  • Be prepared to keep meeting these costs to stay on the road, because the cost of not doing so (tickets for no warrant, accident repair costs etc – is far more).


Finally, drive safely and responsibly and always remember you share the road with your family, friends, their families, their friends…… you drive and handle your car can, and does, have a real and sometimes devastating impact far beyond what we can think of now. 

Find out more about looking after yourself